Sunday, July 29, 2007

Whole lot of nothing going on

Our drought has been so bad that even the hostas were drooping, and the hellebores had apparently just given up and splayed out on the ground. Then we had a ferocious thunderstorm last night, just about four-tenths of an inch of rain, and everybody's sitting up and taking nourishment again.

However, there's not a whole lot to report. I walked around early this morning and saw that the liles are almost at an end,

the black-eyed Susans are still puny but no longer wilted (another sign of how bad the drought was), the perovskia is still in bloom, etc.

The balloon flowers (playtcodon) have been in bloom for a good week. I like the lower height of the ones I pruned a month or so ago and will remember that for next year. For some reason, they turn their sweet faces away from me, and I have to climb into the garden to enjoy their blooms: white, blue, and this interesting bicolor one.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why I didn't do this myself

(As if anyone who knew me thought I could...)

Let me count the many reasons, having to do with skill, ability, strength, persistence...
Posted by Picasa

The carpenter constructing the trellis and the gate.

Posted by Picasa

Four tons of stone dust gets delivered to the driveway.

Posted by Picasa

Ryan, the great crew leader, jackhammering up the concrete pad.
Ryan and one of the two guys taking a pickaxe to the hard clay so they could level the ground. Notice the string placed in some way I don't understand to help them maintain the right depth.

Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of stone is hauled from the driveway to the back yard, then chipped or sawed into shape before being placed exactly so. Then, in some way I never saw, they put stone dust between each stone and covered that with a layer of polymerized sand, which is supposed to help suppress weeds (let's hope).

After, Part Two: The terrace is finished!

Won't you come into my garden? Here is the new path from the driveway. Lots of room for some low plantings along the edge, plus opportunities for trailing things along the low wall.

Here is the view from the gate looking toward the shed..

The view from the back door...

From the terrace looking back up the path, you will notice the wrong gate. The carpenter did almost exactly what I asked, so I can't fault him. But he started the half-moon too low on the gate, and the cut is not smooth. I think this is a mistake and have already decided to have them re-do the gate with a straight cut just a foot shorter than the fence. That will still give a tantalizing glimpse of the garden (I hope) without looking so fussy.

The path and the stone wall may be my favorite parts of this project. (The wall above will need to be re-painted.)

Posted by Picasa

Now that the terrace is installed, the trellis no longer looms oddly in the landscape like something from 2001.

I am very pleased and can't wait to work on planting ideas!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Silence

All last week, I was either watching the movies, re-reading books five and six, or, finally and most wonderfully, reading the very last book. It was very moving and entirely satisfying. The newspapers piled up, the bills went unpaid, and the blog was totally neglected. But since this is not a book blog, not not not, we now return to the garden.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Shade vs. drought

I am constantly whining about my shady setting, but a couple of blog postings, combined with Adrian Higgins' article about wet gardens, are making me re-think the problem (if there is one). After all, if a sunflower can flourish in partial shade, and the black-eyed Susan is happy in the shade of the compost pile, while the astilbe struggles and the impatiens chokes in the dust, perhaps it's drought I should be paying attention to.

I was particularly struck by one blogger's list of what did and didn't work for her in dry conditions. Here's what does well:
Shrubs: aucuba, nandina, Heleri holly, junipers, spirea, euonymous 'Emerald Gaity', weigela, bottlebrush buckeye, Meidiland rose 'Alba', and oakleaf hydrangea (in full shade).
Perennials: hosta, sedum, Russian sage, daylilies, ornamental grasses, liriope, carex, solomon's seal, garden phlox, euphorbia amygdaloides, purple coneflower, aster, black-eyed susan.

Then she rants about rhododendrons, which I am coming to agree with, and astilbes, which I love but that sit there gritting their teeth and shriveling up in high summer. As a Maryland gardener says, "And the biggest wuss, in my experience, is astilbe. They do nothing for me in summer except threaten to die."

Beautiful bugs

Deadheading the hostas, I found this elegant little creature, which I think is a tree hopper.
I was on the lookout for snakes, but instead found this praying mantis - at least, I think it is, despite the fact that it's brown rather than green. Could it be a walking stick?
And this was such an interesting spider web, with its ladder-like section, that I had to take a picture. I am clueless about what it is.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 14, 2007

After, Part One

The carpenters were here on Thursday to install the trellis and re-do the back gate. They did exactly what they were supposed to do, but I'm not sure it's right. You know that sinking feeling you get about things like this? My concern is that eight feet is too high for the trellis - six feet would be better. And though the carpenter cut a half circle in the back gate as I had asked, it's a little wobbly, and it goes way too far down. I'll ask Shelley if I can have them come back to re-do the gate, but I'll wait and see about the trellis until the terrace is installed next week. Stay tuned...

Here's the carpenter at work

 And here's a view of the trellis

This is not a cooking blog...

...but every Saturday after I pick up my box from Cub Creek Farm, I love to play with whatever ingredients she gives me. Today my lunch was sauteed garlic, zucchini and tomato, with a fried egg and snipped basil on top, followed by a nectarine from the peach man. Yum! The only thing that didn't come from the farmer's market was the olive oil.

Tonight I will do something with these three spiny artichokes. They're almost too weirdly beautiful to eat.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mystery of the invasive knotweed

Ketzel* Levine's book was recommended by Martha (I think), so I ILL'd it. For each season, she recommends a list of plants, especially those that thrive in her zone 8 Portland (Oregon) garden, giving each a double page spread complete with watercolor illustrations.

Some of her comments are too hokey for me, but I appreciated listings of plants I'd forgotten about or didn't know. Made notes of Primula sieboldii (good in dry summers, I have been longing for those high-stalked primroses you see in England), Ekianthus (spring-blooming shrub for shade), Clethra (though it prefers moisture), Kadsura japonica 'Chirifu'
(an evergreen vine for shade), and sweet box (Sarcococca).

Then she noted controversy about Fallopia, which she lauds as "big, leafy perennials that are ornamental from day one...but because of the grossly invasive nature of this genus, no discussion of the two variegated forms is possible without raising hackles high."

Could this be related to the dread Houttuynia? This is the incredibly invasive plant that Dianne B. rails about in her book. Judy offered me something in her garden that reminded me ominously of this plant, though she swears it's not invasive at all.

Here's Judy's plant in a shady spot with some impatiens:

and here's a picture of Fallopia, aka Japanese knotweed:

and then here's a picture of Houttynia:

Are they all the same thing? The mystery deepens...but as someone who has bishop's weed, loosestrife, mint and lemon balm already, I'm not going to jump into this, whatever it's calling itself.

*So, I always thought her name was Ketza - comes of listening to her on NPR instead of reading...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Fooling around

Okay, so I fooled around with the header and changed the font colors, thanks to this slightly outdated little book. Apparently, despite the piles of books to be read and stuff to be sorted, I have nothing better to do on a hot Sunday afternoon...

On a related note, here's a picture of a volunteer sunflower in the new garden at the back of the house. The unknown seedling came up, I wanted to see what would happen, and this is the result. Sometimes it's nice to be an undisciplined gardener.
Posted by Picasa

The hot July garden

Hot, hot, hot and no rain, not a bit. There's not a whole lot happening right now, but here's a look at what's in bloom.

A month on, here's what the pot on the steps looks like: dusty miller has vanished, wave petunia is crowded out by the purple sweet potato vine, which is covered with tiny holes because I did not drench it with Merit (though I'll do that today). Also, the coleus is a coarser variety than I had realized. Nevertheless, I still like this for the color scheme and its lushness.

Here's what it looked like in May, with lots more petunia blossoms in evidence:

Posted by Picasa

The datura self-sows every season. I think my neighbors enjoy it more than I do, since it blooms around the corner in the sad side garden (see below). I think this came originally from Lee, several years ago. Notice the tiny spikes on the bloom, perhaps signalling its poisonous nature. According to Wikipedia,
Common names include jimson weed, Hell's Bells, Devil's weed, Devil's cucumber,
thorn-apple (from the spiny fruit), pricklyburr (similarly), and somewhat
paradoxically, both angel's trumpet and devil's trumpet (from their large trumpet-shaped
flowers), or as Nathaniel Hawthorne
refers to it in the the Scarlet Letter
apple-peru. The word Datura comes from Hindi dhatūrā (thorn apple);
record of this name dates back only to 1662 (OED).

And here's the sad side garden. Sad because it was meant to be a cutting garden, but then I planted the white gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides)and some lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Anybody want some? They both spread like crazy. I'll get a grip on this garden some day, but not this year.

Here is Aunt Betsy's day lily blooming with the Russian sage (unknown Perovskia variety), which I remember falling in love with twenty years ago on a trip to California. I really need to either cut back or move the sage - it's totally crowded out by the daylilies. It does well in this hot, dry location, and I need to give it some room to grow.

The benefits of pruning - although I dissed this book a while ago, I did take her advice and cut back the foxglove just after it finished blooming. And now, six weeks or so later, a new (though small) flower stalk!

The hostas are all in bloom right now - the kind someone somewhere refers to as "the mundanes." But it's fun to watch the bees bumbling in and out of the flowers. Look really closely at the left-hand side of the right-hand flower...

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Shelley Meadows and I waited around for two hours for the crew to show up, but they never did. She finally called the office and discovered that the job was now scheduled for July 16th instead. I'm quite annoyed, but what can you do? I'll call to confirm before I wait around for them again. I'm trying to focus on the great result rather than the process of getting there...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

New terrace

The new stone terrace, path, gate and trellis are due to get started this Friday, so I've moved some pots, the table and chairs, and a few plants in preparation. Here what we're starting with (note that the concrete slab was likely installed circa 1962, the same age as the house, or soon thereafter).
View from the back door

From the oak tree garden

Looking into the garden

Through the gate

The new plan will widen the gate, make a stone terrace where there is now straggly grass, add a stone path to the driveway, raise up the narrow bed by the house with a stone wall along it, and add an 8' x 8' trellis to screen the neighbors (that's where the climbing hydrangea comes in). Let's hope it turns out as well as the plan suggests.

Good gardening primer

Subtitled "41 Pick-and-Choose Projects for Planting Your Paradise Large or Small," this offers good tips for beginners and those of us who are not quite beginners but in need of advice. Some of her projects will be harder than she suggests, but the you-can-do-it-and-it-will-be-great attitude makes this fun to read.
I guess I should know who author Katherine Whiteside is - I can tell I've been out of the gardening loop for the past five years - since she apparently has written widely. At any rate, I picked up a couple good tips here, one being a simple plan for a compost pile (I need to get a better grip than this, I'm embarrassed to post the photo!), and a recipe for sorrel soup that I will pull out next spring. As a bonus, this is illustrated with charming watercolors by Peter Gergely.

Gardening in Bethlehem

An emergency visit to Bethlehem that ended well included a visit to Judy's garden, once my parents' domain. They gardened full-time for twenty years after retirement, so it's a bit much for one person with children at home and a job. But Judy makes it look beautiful still. Here's the woodland border with cimicifuga, Japanese painted ferns, azalea, and climbing hydrangea in the very back of the photo, reaching to the sky.

And here's another picture of the climbing hydrangea going up a tree.

The vegetable garden is lush, and Judy has planted big-leaved things like this zucchini.
Here are the raspberry bushes with the shed in the background. They were bearing beautifully this weekend and we ate them every day.

Nasturtium as it should be.
Monarda in the perennial border
Judy, with a winsome smile, cutting flowers for the house.

Judy's dining room table